Up to 80% of the population of Northern Ghana are farmers and they mostly depend on vulnerable rained agriculture. Due to strong seasonality of rainfall in the region, rainfed farming is limited to only five to six months of the year. So what do farmers do during the other six to seven months? While some take up other livelihoods or seek temporary employment elsewhere, others continue to grow food through dry season gardening.
Trax supports farmers to take up dry season gardening through training them on agroforestry practices and, in some communities, constructing the necessary well or borehole which provides the critical source of water. Trax believes dry season gardening can contribute to environmental restoration, sustainable livelihoods, increased food security and good nutrition when practiced using agroforestry and an agroecological approach.
For farming communities supported by Trax, dry season gardening not only continues to provide essential income during the dry months, but the vegetables also provide a valuable source of nutrition for their families.
What is Dry Season Gardening?
Dry season gardening is typically done on a smaller scale than wet season farming, which is why it is termed ‘gardening’ rather than ‘farming’. This is because it can only be practiced in areas near to a water source where water will be available even during the driest months. As it is done on a small scale, dry season gardening is used to grow vegetables and leafy greens rather than the cereals or roots and tubers grown in the wet season. Typical crops grown during the dry season are onions, tomatoes, chili pepper, bitter leaf, and other green herbs.
Vegetables are irrigated by hand, with the farmer collecting water from the local water sources and applying it to the crop, sometimes with a hose or a watering can, sometimes with a bucket. In some areas, farmers will irrigate their dry season crops by digging channels from the water source to the vegetable beds.
Where the water table is high, farmers can dig small pools or ponds on their farms to supply the water. Some will farm around micro-dams, which others will collect water from a nearby well or borehole. In cases where the farmer or community can afford it, a pump run by a generator will pump water from a well to their vegetable beds. A newer addition to pumping water for dry season gardening is the use of a treadle and hand pump which works like a generator pump but using human power instead of fuel.